Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy

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Vitamins supplements and nutrition in pregnancy Eating a healthy varied diet in pregnancy will help you get most of the vitamins and minerals you need But when you re pregnant or there s a chance you might get pregnant it s important to also take a folic acid supplement It s recommended that you take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from before you re pregnant until you re 12 weeks pregnant This is to reduce the risk of problems in the baby s development in the early weeks of pregnancy It is also recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement Do not take cod liver oil or any supplements containing vitamin A retinol when you re pregnant Too much vitamin A could harm your baby Always check the label Where to get pregnancy supplements You can get supplements from pharmacies and supermarkets or a GP may be able to prescribe them for you If you want to get your folic acid from a multivitamin tablet make sure the tablet does not contain vitamin A or retinol You may be able to get free vitamins if you qualify for the Healthy Start scheme Folic acid before and during pregnancy It s important to take a 400 micrograms folic acid tablet every day before you re pregnant and until you re 12 weeks pregnant Folic acid can help prevent birth defects known as neural tube defects including spina bifida If you did not take folic acid before you conceived you should start as soon as you find out you re pregnant Try to eat green leafy vegetables which contain folate the natural form of folic acid and breakfast cereals and fat spreads with folic acid added to them It s difficult to get the amount of folate recommended for a healthy pregnancy from food alone which is why it s important to take a folic acid supplement Higher dose folic acid If you have a higher chance of your pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects you will be advised to take a higher dose of folic acid 5 milligrams You will be advised to take this each day until you re 12 weeks pregnant You may have a higher chance if you or the baby s biological father have a neural tube defect you or the baby s biological father have a family history of neural tube defects you have had a previous pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect you have diabetes you take anti epilepsy medicine you take anti retroviral medicine for HIV Find out about epilepsy and pregnancy Vitamin D in pregnancy If any of this applies to you talk to a GP They can prescribe a higher dose of folic acid A GP or midwife may also recommend additional screening tests during your pregnancy You need 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day and should consider taking a supplement containing this amount between September and March Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body which are needed to keep bones teeth and muscles healthy Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight from late March early April to the end of September It s not known exactly how much time is needed in the sun to make enough vitamin D to meet the body s needs but if you re in the sun take care to cover up or protect your skin with sunscreen before you start to turn red or burn Vitamin D is also in some foods including oily fish such as salmon mackerel herring and sardines eggs red meat Vitamin D is added to some breakfast cereals fat spreads and non dairy milk alternatives The amounts added to these products can vary and might only be small Because vitamin D is only found in a small number of foods whether naturally or added it is difficult to get enough from foods alone Do not take more than 100 micrograms 4 000 IU of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful You can get vitamin supplements containing vitamin D free of charge if you re pregnant or breastfeeding and qualify for the Healthy Start scheme There have been some reports about vitamin D reducing the risk of coronavirus COVID 19 But there is currently not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID 19 If you have dark skin or cover your skin a lot You may be at particular risk of not having enough vitamin D if you have dark skin for example if you re of African African Caribbean or south Asian origin you cover your skin when outside or spend lots of time indoors You may need to consider taking a daily supplement of vitamin D all year Talk to a midwife or doctor for advice Iron in pregnancy If you do not have enough iron you ll probably get very tired and may suffer from anaemia Lean meat green leafy vegetables dried fruit and nuts contain iron If you d like to eat peanuts or foods that contain peanuts such as peanut butter during pregnancy you can do so as part of a healthy balanced diet unless you re allergic to them or your health professional advises you not to Many breakfast cereals have iron added to them If the iron level in your blood becomes low a GP or midwife will advise you to take iron supplements Vitamin C in pregnancy Vitamin C protects cells and helps keep them healthy It s found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables and a balanced diet can provide all the vitamin C you need Good sources include oranges and orange juice red and green peppers strawberries blackcurrants broccoli brussels sprouts potatoes Calcium in pregnancy Sources of calcium include milk cheese and yoghurt Calcium is vital for making your baby s bones and teeth green leafy vegetables such as rocket watercress or curly kale tofu soya drinks with added calcium bread and any foods made with fortified flour fish where you eat the bones such as sardines and pilchards Vegetarian vegan and special diets in pregnancy A varied and balanced vegetarian diet should provide enough nutrients for you and your baby during pregnancy But you might find it more difficult to get enough iron and vitamin B12 Talk to a midwife or doctor about how to make sure you re getting enough of these important nutrients If you re vegan or you follow a restricted diet because of a food intolerance for example a gluten free diet for coeliac disease or for religious reasons talk to a midwife or GP Ask to be referred to a dietitian for advice on how to make sure you re getting all the nutrients you need for you and your baby Healthy Start vitamins The Healthy Start scheme may be able to help you buy food and milk if you re pregnant or have a child under 4 years old and receive certain benefits or you re pregnant and under 18 If you re eligible you ll be sent a Healthy Start card which you can …

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